Technology (especially video) is changing at break-neck speeds that I cannot even keep up with. I find myself keeping an eye on the app stores for the newest technology that I can use to engage my students. Teachers are in such a weird place in history where the students know more than the teachers...well, at least in the arena of technology. My perpetual goal is to not let that happen. I am always open to anything new, but I'm going to be honest, it's irresponsible not to be literate in technology and still teach students in the 21st century. They deserve it.
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I like making myself as available as possible to my students. I have always admired how teachers can implement video into their classrooms and make it effectual instead of a time filler. I've been on two major road trips in the last three years with the focus on stopping in locations that is/was pertinent to my social studies instruction. How much more interesting and engaging would it be to teach certain geographical features throughout the United States, when the teacher was there!? I filmed snippets in a way that I could use them in a variety of ways, but also in a way that makes the information relevant. Teachers travel. I've learned this on every teacher's first day back to school. Conversations almost always begin, "Where'd you go this summer?" I think that every chance you (as the teacher) visit a new place, think about the wonderful opportunities that are provided to simply film a short video about the person, place, or idea that is included there.
The possibilities are endless! I always try to remember that to the kids, I AM THE EXPERT. If I don't know, then they should surely know that I'm going to find out!
Back to school time is always a joy of mine. Excitement fills the air. Nervousness plays peek-a-boo behind every smile. Meeting the teacher starts the beginning of a rewarding marathon that will inevitably change the lives of many. I had the opportunity to be available for my students for a few hours and knew that this year was going to be special for a variety of reasons. Teaching social studies in five blocks to one hundred and eight students was my assignment for the year.
My mind wondered through preplanning... "How am I going to reach, teach, and preach content in American history that spans from the American Revolution to post-Civil War Reconstruction?" I wondered how I was going to do it with fidelity and supply the expectations of fourth grade with the appropriate level of rigor as well. I'm nervous about the new Georgia Standards of Excellence for social studies. How can I get that much information in a school year? Where can I find interesting informational nonfiction content that supplements the new standards?
After spending the summer meditating on my plan of action in the implementation of the new Georgia Standards of Excellence for social studies, I knew that I needed to evolve. I spent much of the summer in perpetual professional development. I found myself revising and attending to the new standards, verbs of those standards, and the performance that was expected of my students
Check it out here --> bit.ly/2vZElka
Education requires the most fervent of servants to accomplish goliath expectations. Teaching is not a job or a career to me. It is a lifestyle and it is what motivates me. Passion for what is done as educators is something that is ignited from a fuel that is manufactured in the labor of love that IS education. It is a passion that must be nurtured so that it does not waver, because the classroom is a battlefield.
With all of the recent political drama and memes floating around about the president's nominee for Sec. of Education, it has caused me to reflect on my education as a child and where I am today. The factors that influenced myself to become a teacher stem from circumstances in my childhood that had one only solution…education. Growing up in poverty, without a father, with yet-to-be-diagnosed ADHD, the brother of a girl with Down Syndrome with a significant developmental delay, I was the child in your class who needed you the most. I had no one other than my mother to guide me and while she did what she could, I was left to tend to myself a majority of the time. Growing up in a single-parent home living below the poverty line was difficult as a student. Though I could not define or comprehend the levity of the situation, my mother knew that it was a classroom that could offer me more than she could. She did the best that she could to ensure that I was there. All of these situations/life circumstances directly influenced myself to become a teacher. These were labels. These were stereotypes. These were excuses. There was one solution out of this…education.
Education is the solution to poverty. In my experience while serving in the countries of Mexico and Haiti, it became evident that the lacking institution that could directly impact the human condition was and is education. I identify myself closely with the needs of the economically impoverished, because I have been there, and have left it due to…education. My greatest accomplishment in education is simply understanding the power and levity of education. It is breaking the cycle of poverty with education. I was the first person in my immediate family to attend college and graduate, and then use my story to motivate and empower a new generation of thinkers.
Being fatherless is not an excuse, it is fuel. It IS easier to build strong children than to repair broken men, as Frederick Douglass once noted. Children need leaders. I have been asked why I chose the profession of education often. My response has yet to waver: “I always wanted to be the teacher I never had.” Why is it that people remember more about certain teachers than others? My desire is to cultivate positive relationships with students that are based off of the understanding that ALL children can learn. With the changing roles in the homes of families, it is imperative that the role of the teacher is to edify, inspire, and cultivate promise in all learners of all backgrounds and abilities.
Real music recommendation: Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell – “Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing”
What educational issues and trends do you see developing in 2017?
The achievement gap between the multitude of learning styles is the most pressing and puzzling public education issue of today. For years the most abundant and consistent fact about every classroom that I have had the pleasure of teaching is that there were many different students of vary levels, learning styles, socioeconomic levels, ethnicity, and interests. In 2017, I see our biggest issues relating to this achievement gap and using techology, research based practices, and just plain good, diligent teaching to close the gap.
What is an achievement gap? Does it really exist?
The cause of achievement gaps in different ethnic groups, socioeconomic levels, learning styles, and interests of students predicate on the lack of understanding of differentiated instruction by teachers. The impetus of differentiated instruction is to really understand the students in a classroom.
I believe that teachers that form positive learning relationships with consistent feedback loops are substantially more successful than those who do not. Some teachers will attribute growing class sizes, economic restrictions by the state and local school boards, the lack of predisposed knowledge that students have before arriving in the teacher’s classroom, and the lack of time in addition to a multitude of others reasons for not developing useful and practical differentiation strategies for closing the achievement gap amongst students.
Every child, every day should be the mantra of exceptional teachers. This means that even if it is a clipboard that a teacher carries every day with their students’ names on them, the teacher could write at least something anecdotally about each student that could benefit their instruction in the future. (This is great evidence for your evaluation, by the way!)
Differentiated Instruction....no longer a dirty word, but THE word.
The effects of differentiated instruction are outstandingly clear. Students who have teachers that can diagnose a weakness in their learning can prescribe a solution or solutions to guide the student in the direction of success.
The resolution of utilizing differentiation throughout targeting, explicit instruction contains teachers that are willing to put in the extra mile and effort in learning the personalities of their students. Students who have timely and precise commentary on their work will know what it is that they need to improve on. Utilizing groups within a classroom composed of students based on mere achievement is one dimensional and statistically ineffective.
Why not try to group students based on similar interests? Learning styles? Multiple intelligence? Preferential learning? Teachers need to assume the role of a manager in customer service. What will be the vehicle to the teacher’s students’ success? What outcomes do the parent, student, and teachers expect? What is a teacher to do with the expectations? How relevant is it to teachers to define a culture regarding setting goals and reaching them based on the student? Differentiation should be a reflective practice of teachers that inspire a sense of proactivity in defining appropriate and effective measures of instruction.
More Professional Development?
The key to amending the achievement gap is professional development, networking with other teachers, and knowing your students. It is a strong and steadfast belief of mine that listening to other teachers instead of constantly talking would alleviate many issues regarding the developing achievement gap amongst varying students.
Speaking of Professional Development---exciting news!
We officially participated in our first professional development event with Chattooga County Schools this December. We were honored to present to their teachers on Differentiated & Integrated Instruction in the Science and Social Studies classroom. Here's hoping for more PD presentation opportunities in 2017!
Note: Dana was 38.5 weeks pregnant and handled presenting 5 sessions like a champ! We were just hoping we could finish the day and get back across the state before she went into labor. We ended up meeting our family at Bass Pro Shop, seeing Santa, and enjoying the evening. She didn't deliver baby Hadley until the 21!
Real music recommendation: Robin Thicke – “Ain’t No Hat for That”
They were beloved. They were doted upon. They were the pride of the school.
Then my school was closed down due to budget cuts. The teachers/administration/media specialist who propped up the annual tradition retired.
I was then drafted by the county to teach at a third and fourth grade school of 650 students. I taught a year and relished every new opportunity. I developed “professional amnesia.” I forgot about past traditions because I was too busy establishing new ones.
I then had an epiphany. The engagement well appeared to be dry in my second year after the closing of my first school. Notice I did not disclose “student engagement.” That was intentional, because I question my own engagement at times, so it will vaguely be disguised as simply engagement for now. Year eight has been interesting in that two things are/are not happening professionally with me. Has the self-declared “most interesting man in the world” aged, degraded, and become Cornelius Dinglebocker – the lamest “man-teach” in the world? Has the attention span of our youth diminished so dramatically that not even the jokes, jumps on the table, or listless philanthropy entice students any more? What to do?
Then like a feeling more humbling than the stomach virus hit me. WAX MUSEUM! I remember the smiles from many years ago, and thought that vintage is en vogue. That probably made sense to no one. Inside jokes aside, I have recently concluded a week with the Wax Museum. It remains to be seen whether it has graduated to “tradition” status. The true test will be our Title I Technology Night, where my entire team of sixty-eight students will perform throughout the school.
THREE GLOWS SO FAR WITH THE WAX MUSEUM
1. Parents and students love it.
2. Student-owned, Student-ran (I loved seeing them count the coins and making arrays while doing so!)
3. Morale builder amongst parents/teachers/students/administration
THREE GROWS SO FAR WITH THE WAX MUSEUM
1. Economically disadvantaged students will need help. Prepare in advance, so that the teacher is not overwhelmed and thus additionally economically disadvantaged.
2. Students will have to be coached on how to act between performances. (Antsy pants!)
3. I need to provide more time at school to research. More research = ownership.
We have raised $74.75 to date (with my $20 penny and nickel investment). All of the proceeds from this project are going into the development of our school garden. I don’t think the focus is making money. I don’t think the focus of teaching is making money either.
Real music recommendation: B. Reith – “Roll with the Punches”
Are you in school on Columbus Day? Our students are out and it is a teacher in service where we are! We will still be studying about Columbus because I teach fourth grade in Georgia and he happens to be one of our standards. How do you navigate Columbus Day? Do you think he should be celebrated? These teacher & kid-approved videos about Columbus, his life, voyages, and more will be great lead-ins for some great conversation, debate, and critical thinking! Enjoy!
A short summary of how Columbus got started on his first voyage with good background information about the Taino. Discussion of God, Gold, and Glory and some of the ugly truths of the explorer.
Christopher Columbus has long been touted as the explorer who discovered America and proved the world was round. That view of things is not correct, however! Come and learn about the voyages of Christopher Columbus, his ships, and what really happened in this historically accurate and child-appropriate biography of the famous explorer.
Many people in the United States and Latin America have grown up celebrating the anniversary of Christopher Columbus’s voyage. But was he an intrepid explorer who brought two worlds together or a ruthless exploiter who brought colonialism and slavery? And did he even discover America at all? Alex Gendler puts Columbus on the stand in History vs. Christopher Columbus. An excellent 6 minute video!
Mel-O-Toons: Christopher Columbus (5:29)
Mel-O-Toons is a vintage video collection that reminds me of Schoolhouse Rock. The oldie but goodie has lots of facts and includes relevant information still today.
Columbus Song-1492 (2:54)
This Columbus song is one of my students' favorites each year! It focuses mainly on the Native American tribes that were in the Americas long before Columbus. A very catchy tune that will stay in your head for weeks!
Christopher Columbus: "This Land is My Land!" | Sung History (3:19)
DreamWorks TV has really impressed me with their new "Sung History" videos! They are a bit better suited for older elementary, middle, and high school students because they include humor that many students may not understand. There's also the work "heck" at the beginning of this video..but it would likely be overlooked by most students as normal language anyway. Overall, this video is more for teaching and presents excellent discussion topics, rather than something the kids would want to sing along with.
September is here and one of the first holidays that most schools across the country celebrate is Friday, September 16, 2016. It is Constitution Day! Let's be honest. Besides a possible demonstration of the Constitution with creating a Classroom Constitution, there isn't a lot we can do to make something that happened so long ago relevant today. Students don't always understand it. But they should! Understanding our rights and freedoms is a responsibility that we have. So, I've done the hard work and teacher & kid-approved several videos to help you celebrate Constitution Day with your students!
Who doesn't love Schoolhouse Rock? The catchy tune is one that students always memorize quickly and it never gets old. It's a short song that works great in transition time.
Have you ever heard of Liberty's Kids? They are seriously our favorite! It is like a social studies version of Magic School Bus. The kids love the consistency with characters through each episode. The series does an excellent job with historical accuracy in a way that students will easily understand and be drawn to. It is a longer episode, but worthwhile. Especially if you make them take notes like I usually do :)
In this excerpt, President Barack Obama tells kids why the U.S. Constitution is relevant today. He also shares which Founding Father he'd most like to meet. I personally like the connection between past and present. Another short one to squeeze in when you've got a few minutes!
How did a meeting intended to revise the Articles of Confederation lead to the new Constitution for the United States? Watch this cartoon/graphic video to discover how a handful of men--sitting in sweltering heat and shrouded by secrecy--changed the course of history for America in 1787. A unique way to portray that information but still kid friendly & short!
I hope these videos help you to teach Constitution Day well this year. It is SO HARD to fit everything in, even when we try our best. Hopefully you can use one or all of these resources in the next week to share with your students about our nation's history. Need other resources for the Constitution, Bill of Rights, and American Government? Check out these resources available in our TPT Store!
Teachers are busy, busy, busy. We are overwhelmed. We have trouble fitting everything in. When James & I taught third grade, we did not have enough time to cover the standards, meet our TKES (GA Teacher Evaluation System), and make our students our number one priority. After struggling with what to do, we realized that leveling texts was a way we could ensure we were meeting our students needs....along with all the other teacher stuff. So, Bow Tie Guy was born and we began researching, writing, and differentiating passages. We were thrilled to see the success in our own classrooms. Our students loved ditching the outdated textbooks that were written way too high for many of them anyway. Our administrators were happy to be able to visually see our differentiation as part of our teacher evaluation. Enough about us. Let's talk about you!
Why should we use leveled texts in the content areas?
A sample of what is included in each of our passages is below. How easy to insert these levels right into your lesson plans as proof of differentiation!
$Why should I purchase differentiated reading passages from BTG&Wife?
• Textbooks aren't what they used to be...if we have them at all. Often textbooks are written well above grade level and simply aren't interested. I use my love of history to make passages engaging and informative for all levels of readers!
• Teach across the curriculum! Show your administration how you integrate and differentiate by implementing during guided reading groups, center time, or in a regular social studies block
• Perfect for last minute print & go sub plans, morning work, & homework
• In my own classroom, they are often used at the end of a unit for review, as study guides, and even test prep
• Have students with accommodations? Instantly assess them at THEIR LEVEL while meeting IEP goals!
How Does This Resource Make Me A Better Teacher?
• Your time is precious & the standards are plentiful
By integrating across content whenever possible, you save time and your students see connections across the curriculum!
• Differentiated Instruction is no longer optional-it is a must! There is no one-size-fits-all classroom. These passages are an easy way to check that off of your never-ending teacher to-do list!
• Reach your entire class with the same quality content. Each student in your class deserves a fair chance at the content. Let their passion for science and social studies thrive, regardless of their reading ability. While passages appear very similar, I can assure you hours of researching and writing have occurred on my behalf to ensure that each level is appropriate for your learners.
The feedback speaks for itself! Don't listen to us anymore, just go try it and see if it makes a difference in your students!
*Note: a few folks have inquired that passages look the same to the naked eye! (That's the point.) Especially the busy teacher's eye who may not take the time to read sentences and cross-check them with the other variations of the text. Sentence complexity, vocabulary, and the combination of simple, compound, and complex sentences greatly impact the readability of texts. So, although the text looks the same to students (& sometimes even teachers!), we can assure you they have been analyzed to meet the Common Core Reading Standards.
James & Dana
A husband and wife teacher team who love integrating social studies and science into other subjects for diverse elementary classrooms.
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